What Attire Should a Woman Wear to a Job Interview?

by Chris Newton; Updated September 26, 2017
When in doubt, dress in business casual attire for a job interview.

Long gone are the days when a woman's job interview attire consisted of a black or blue suit with a white blouse and a string of pearls. However, with more options available, some women might feel overwhelmed with what to wear to that important interview. Dr. Frank Bernieri, a psychology professor at the University of Toledo, reported that first impressions are formed within 30 seconds, so the wrong attire can sabotage a job offer before you even shake hands and sit down.

Do the Research

Women should perform stealth dress research on the company they are interviewing with if possible. Women often wonder if they should wear something that reflects their own sense of style or adapt to the dress code of the new position to show they fit in with the company culture. Be aware of the company’s dress code to help modify the attire accordingly. In some cases, a business suit is expected, but business causal is generally a safe bet. If you know anyone at the company, ask what the dress code is like. Or visit the company's website or social media profile to see if they have photos of employees around the office. Use those photos to help gauge the standard dress code at the office.

Office Styles

Determine what style is most appropriate at the office of your potential job. There are four common types of interview attire for women, according to Michele Pellebon's On Dressing Well website: business conservative (CO), which is more old fashioned than the others; business pretty (BP); creative-funky (CF); and sophisticated glamour (SG). Companies with CO or SG attire codes prefer their employees wear formal business attire, including business suits, closed-toe pumps, pearls and scarves. Publishing, beauty, entertainment and advertising companies tend to go for SG attire, while political, legal, sales, real estate and finance jobs are more prone to CO. Jobs where BP attire is appropriate are educational institutions, physician businesses, middle managers and administrators. These jobs favor khakis, chinos, polos, cardigan sweaters and sheath dresses. Advertising, music, fashion and communication industries prefer their employees to express their personality by wearing trendy fashion garb and making bold fashion choices, and lean more on the side of CF attire.

Interview Fashion Dos

Manicured fingers with a nude polish are a fashion do for a woman's job interview, as are ironed clothes. Dark colors are favored in both dresses and suits. Woman should wear black, brown or dark gray tights over a nude hose. Suits should be broken up in a complimentary color palette. Simple accessories are a must; pearl earrings and a simple watch are usually all that is needed.

Interview Fashion Don’ts

Knowing what not to wear is equally as important as knowing what to wear to an interview. Be sure your shoes are polished, as unpolished shoes and fashion don’t mix. Leave the sneakers and flip-flops at home. It sounds obvious, but avoid see-through clothing at all times in the work place. Do not bring both a brief case and a purse to an interview; if a purse is a must, bring along a portfolio with extra copies of your resume and cover letter. Also, do not overaccessorize. Avoid bangles, large hoops, charm bracelets and pretty much anything else that will clang and jingle. Sparkles are big fashions don’ts for interviews. Avoid sequined tops, satin skirts or eveningwear.

About the Author

Chris Newton has worked as a professional writer since 2001. He spent two years writing software specifications then spent three years as a technical writer for Microsoft before turning to copywriting for software and e-commerce companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Colorado.

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